Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Hundred Dresses - Reading and Activity Guide

This is a beautiful story by Eleanore Estes is about a little girl who claims to have 100 dresses, even though everybody knows she has only the one she wears.  Very few children's books address socioeconomic diversity and the prejudice that can accompany it for those with less.  This book handles the topic in a way that shares a lesson the author herself learned the hard way. Additionally, the subjects of courage, right and wrong, loyalty and friendship all come up through the thoughts the main character struggles with in the book.

Just for The Fun of It

Hopscotch may be old-fashioned, but it is still a heck of a lot of fun - and can be played for the price of a piece of chalk.  If you haven't already, give it a try! Hubpages Hopscotch will not only teach you the actual rules of the game, but its history as well.

Eleanor Estes weaves the message of equality into the story in one more way by showing the kids reciting the Gettysburg Address in the classroom.  Learn a little about this great president AND learn his very short Gettysburg Address.  Have your kids learn the address, set a rhythm or a song to it and then make a music video where they preform the Address as "The Lincolns - a band for equality"

Design a dress or two of your own.  There are lots of "fashion" kits out there with different ways of teaching girls to draw dresses and fashion, OR you can just sketch your own ideas the way Wanda did.  You can also use coloring page images and add color and trimmings as you see fit.

Find your kids a pen-pal to help them learn about someone who is different, but the same.  There are a TON of different pen-pal programs out there.  If your student/students are learning how to write letters, there is a Traditional Letter Writing Pen-Pal Program for that.  However, if you have particularly artistic kids there is a Pen-Pal Program for artistic exchanges too.  The artistic exchange is also a good one for cultural exchange.  There are also programs that use email and are international as well.  If none of the linked programs work for you, simply do a search - there are many more programs out there.

Vocabulary and Comprehension

I had Alice do the first set of vocabulary before reading and then do the second vocabulary set before reading section two and so on.  This worked pretty well in order to keep things simple.  There were a few circumstances where the word came after reading, and many where it came before reading. 

Section One

This section ends on page 18.   For this vocabulary, I gave Alice a list of the definitions and had her match the words to the definition.


outer fringe

Questions to Consider

  1. Does Wanda have many friends? How do you know?
  2. What is the dresses game?
  3. Why don't they believe Wanda?
  4. What makes Wanda so different?
  5. Maddie struggles between her loyalty to her friend Peggy and her dislike for the dresses game.  Would saying something to Peggy about Maddie's feelings truly be disloyal?
  6. How do you think Wanda feels about the dresses game?

Section Two

For the Vocabulary for section two (which ends on page 39), I gave Alice the vocabulary words, AND definitions and asked her to draw pictures that represented the word meanings.  Multiple words COULD be incorporated into one picture if she wished.



Questions to Consider

  1. What is "having fun with Wanda?"
  2. Is Peggy cruel to Wanda or is she just having some fun? Answer this question from Peggy's perspective AND from Maddie's.
  3. Why doesn't Maddie say anything to Peggy regarding her feelings about the dresses game?  Is Maddie cruel for staying silent?
  4. Why do you think Wanda said she had 100 dresses?
  5. What do you think about the idea that Peggy could not do anything that was really wrong just because she is best liked?  Is that true? Explain your answer.

Section Three

For this vocabulary set, I created a crossword puzzle using Ed Helper.  I used the definitions as the hints, but also gave her the list of words from which to choose.  Section three ends on page 49.



Questions to Consider

  1. Do you think Wanda's designs are her 100 dresses?
  2. Why does Maddie think herself a coward?  Do you agree or disagree with her?  Why?
  3. Write out what you think Maddie and Peggy should say to Wanda if they see her.
  4. What do you think will happen in Boggins Heights?

 Section Four

For this vocabulary list, I had Alice look up the words in her dictionary and copy definitions down.
This section ends on page 64.



Questions to Consider

  1. List some of the things that Maddie is thinking about that make her feel she should have been nicer to Wanda.
  2. What do you think about Peggy's idea that it is okay because if not for the teasing maybe Wanda wouldn't have won?  Is she right or not?  Explain your answer.
  3. How would you feel about Peggy and Maddie if you had been Wanda?

Section 5

For this vocabulary list, I had Alice help make a crossword puzzle with me.  If I was working with many children, I probably would have handed out a pre-made crossword puzzle for them to do.  This section coincides with the last chapter.


bear (as in the verb, to bear)

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you think you'd've forgiven them and given Peggy and Maddie some of your drawings?
  2. How do you think Peggy really feels about Wanda?  Cite quotations from the book to support your answer.
  3. Did you enjoy reading this book?  Why or why not?
  4. The Author, Eleanor Estes, told her daughter she wrote this book because of a true story from her own life.  Eleanor Estes had a classmate who was taunted in the same way Wanda was taunted.  She was Polish and wore the same dress to school everyday but left the school suddenly at one point and no one ever heard from her again.  This book is her way of saying she is sorry to that little girl.  What does that make you think about the Author?  Does that make you consider the story differently? 
  5. Is there anyone to whom you would recommend this book - why?

Other Resources for The Hundred Dresses

Teaching Books Network - Has links to more Lesson Guide options and an audio clip.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Learning about Camo

After this activity/activities students will have experienced the difference between "predating" non-camouflaged jelly bellies and camouflaged jelly bellies.  As a result, students will clearly understand how camouflage helps creatures that use it, survive predation.  Young students will have an experience they can describe to others when asked for an example of how camouflage helps the animals that use it to demonstrate their understanding.  For older students, they can graph the experience and create a visual representation depicting the difference between camouflaged and un-camouflaged prey.


1.  Find a bunch of toys that you don't mind having outside and in the dirt that blend in with your landscaping as well as two or three toys that will stand out.  While your child is distracted "hide" the toys in plain site.  Have your child count how many toys he sees from the window and point them out to you.

2.  Let your child go outside and find all the toys - don't make this easy, let him/her work to find some of the ones that blend in the best.

3.  Have your child sort the toys into easy - to - find and hard - to - find piles.  Ask your child why he/she thinks some of the toys were harder to find.  Do not critique the answer, just repeat it back to them as though you are making sure you understand his/her answer clearly.

4.  Back inside, discuss what camouflage is, or read a book about it.  There are plenty of non-fiction books about camouflage out there and even more books about animals or ecology with a section about camo within.  for elementary - aged kids I suggest the book, "Where in the Wild".  It is simply a collection of well-taken photos where you try to find the animal within the photo.  There is always a poem to go with the photo that gives you a hint about the type of animal you are looking for and a flap to open if you really get stuck and can't find the hidden creature.  (The ISBN-13 is 978-1-58246-207-3 and the poetry was written by David M. Schwartz and Yael Schy, while the photos were provided by Dwight Kuhn).

A Follow Up for your Preschoolers, OR a great activity for your Elementary or Middle School students:

1.  Find a whole bunch of items all in the same color (beads, buttons paper clippings etc - see photo).  After making sure everything you will be using is clean, place all these items and some contrasting candies (skittles, m&m's, jelly bellies etc. all work) in the bowl.  (Set the same number of candies of similar color aside for the next round)  Hand your child a pair of small tongs, or large tweezers.  Your child must remove the candies one at a time but as fast as he or she can. Time how long it takes for your child to find all the candies in the bowl.  If you are doing this activity in a classroom setting, break the kids into groups and run the "experiment" once for each child.  Have your students record, and share their times in order to make a whole-class graph.  If you are doing this activity with one or two children only, run the experiment 5 or 6 times (perhaps using non-edible items, so they don't get a sugar rush) and graph the separate experiences.

2. Repeat step five, but do the step with the candies of a similar color to your background instead of a contrasting color.  It will likely take longer for your child to find the candies of a similar color.  Point this out to your predator and ask why he/she thinks it took longer one time over the other.  If the answer wasn't already about camouflage or the color blending in to the background in some way during the first activity, it will likely be this time.

3.  With older kids you can do a similar activity about mimicry using two very similarly colored sets of jelly bellies.  For example, have a solid red color and a speckled red color in a bowl together with a bunch of other red items.  Ask your older child to ONLY get the speckled jelly bellies and even with the tweezers, give them 15 seconds to get as many as they can.  They will likely have a hard time distinguishing between the jelly beans when trying to work this quickly and under these circumstances.  Then read a book or website that discusses mimicry and the variety of reasons mimicry is useful in the animal world.

Item of note, these activities are largely analogous to the prey being camouflaged, however predators use camouflage as well.  Mimicry is used as a type of camouflage, but it also has other applications in the animal world as well.  For children in the later Elementary grades you'll want to point this out, for the younger kids, you are simply introducing the idea that animals also play hide and seek and they use clever costumes to help them be successful so these details are less important.

For the purposes of this photo, I've included both the contrasting yellow candies, as well as the more similar red and purple candies. You can even see the yellow ones through the red feathers, however the other two colors are a little tougher to spot except when they are right on top. When your child is trying to hurry, this task becomes even more difficult.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dolls Lesson

Getting Connected

As a way to connect from the Kaya series, to other American Indian Cultures, colonial culture and our modern culture, I chose to start with dolls.  For those of you teaching boys, this activity can still be used, just make sure to include "Action Figures" as part of the equation.  The Smithsonian has this FABULOUS lesson plan  (simply click the link to open it in a new window).

For Alice, I had to adjust the lesson a little because she isn't in a classroom setting that allows for breaking into all those separate groups etc, but we made it work.  I then had Alice make a rag doll to experience making something using the things we had available in our house.

We also took a quick look at the Hotch Potch dolls from the Merry Makers and Colonial Williamsburg this quick view was to further illustrate how dolls are used in many cultures as a learning tool.  I asked her to think of ways she and I had used dolls "educationally."

Alice's List:
  • To teach Benjamin body parts like hands, feet, eyes, nose etc.  Benjamin is the little guy we babysit regularly who is now three and starting preschool.
  • To teach Alice about how to handle babies before she started babysitting with me.
  • To teach Alice how to swaddle a baby (more recently for fun).
  • To teach Alice how to change diapers and clothes on a baby (which she recognizes she is likely to use in the future)
  • To teach Alice how to use zippers, buttons, Velcro, and tie ribbons (one of those fasteners dolls).
She did not mention the use of dolls for learning history - but we'll get there :-)   If you do this activity with your kids, I'd love to hear what "lessons" they list having learned from dolls not already mentioned.  Please feel free to add your comments.

Additional Lessons, Activities and Follow-Up

After Alice fully understood the Nez Perce way was far from the only American Indian way of life, and that the environment around any group of people (living before modern transit systems) impacted the way they lived and the materials they used, we took a look at the whole continent and compared legends, foods and housing styles of various Amero-Indian groups.  You'll want to be sure you have a good map you can mark up or put pins in to identify where different nations lived.  Here are some of the best resources I found for going about making these comparisons.

Infinity of Nations - Includes a "game" that is absolutely perfect for this purpose.

Native Americans Facts for Kids - TONS of resources and information in a kid-friendly format and vocabulary.

Native American Recipes - Yumm!!!

The "If You Lived" Book Series is a simple and helpful resource.  Relevant books in the collection include:  If you lifed with the: Iroquois, Cherokee, Hopi, Indians of the Northwest Coast, and Sioux.

Squidoo Lens - Great list of picture books and activities to do with them and more!